Marketers often define audiences by generation – a view which is overly generic and narrow, given the audience marketing tools available. Social listening offers an opportunity to go beyond the limited confines of demographic age groups, and more accurately pinpoint new and larger audiences to engage.

Use social listening to banish assumptions

It’s easy to assume there are more differences than similarities amongst the many generations marketers have to work with right now. It might even be true – but there’s still enough crossover to win your brand additional fans.

Think about the Star Wars franchise: Could there be a better example of a multi-generational brand? From the Greatest Generation and Boomers on down to the Post-Millennials, Star Wars appeals.

But what if you didn’t know that, and chose to only market to one demographic – say Millennials? You’d be missing out on a lot. This is why social listening matters, and why audience accuracy can’t be attained based on superficial information like age-range. You’ve got to get into how people feel.

Even members of the same generation aren’t all “look-alikes” after the same thing. What you want to seek out are “feel-alike” consumers. What does age matter if someone loves your product? You want to engage everyone who loves your brand.

Social data closes the generation gap

Let’s put this idea into context. If you assume that people in the Baby Boomers demographic don’t drink soda, you’ll probably be right about some of them. Is that enough information to go on as you create your next Coke campaign? As of June, 2015 there were 75.4 million Baby Boomers in the U.S., according to the U.S. Census Bureau. Are you willing to eliminate the entire demographic because a survey, or focus group, or your assumptions say they don’t drink soda?

It sounds crazy when put that plainly, but it happens. Here’s a better way: Using social listening tools, you can analyze social conversations to discover all the people on social media talking about Coke, or soda in any form. What is the sentiment around these conversations?

You want to know about both the positive and the negative, because there are opportunities in each. Obviously, if there are negative comments being made about your brand, you need to attend to those immediately.

If there are negative conversations happening about one of your competitors, take note. There’s an opportunity to exploit there, too – in fact, this can become a distinct audience segment to target.

Now look at the positive conversations – because you’re going to use them to create multiple segments based on adjacencies among consumers. You’re looking for the most passionate consumers – not the ones saying they have a Coke every now and then, but the ones saying they can’t live without it.

And what else can’t they live without? Their iPhone or tablet? Their Fitbit to balance things out? Their Netflix subscription? Their weekly yoga class? Whatever it is, that’s what you’re going to use to create segments – because then you can talk to them in an individualized way based on those feel-alike interests.

The messaging you create for a segment of Coke drinkers who love going to book club is going to be much more accurate and effective than blanket messaging for all Millennials, or broadly ignoring all Baby Boomers.

Don’t get lost in the language

Speaking of messaging, you can’t get a true read of social consumers without understanding what they’re saying. Social messaging on the consumer side is comprised of text – in their primary language and possibly in secondary languages as well – slang, and emojis. Precise understanding of all of them is required to fully define audience segments.

Here’s where social monitoring software really shows its value – because even if you don’t speak emoji, our platform does. You can add language data to your audience segmenting – and when you talk back, you can speak to consumers in the language they prefer.

And in the end it’s all about preference – not about age. If you want the best social data you can get, don’t group consumers together based on anything but their shared passions. When your brand is one of them, that’s all that matters.

Let us show you how audience segmenting can work for you – reach out for a demo of our social listening tools today.  

Image from Paul Varuni

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